The following is a practice-based reflection which will discuss the limitations of the project and lessons learnt from the various milestone stages.
The main limitation of this entire project was time. Due to the iterative element it was fundamental that the schedule was not behind as it would have a negative impact on the entire project. I was fully aware of this at the proposal stage. This did present some challenges, the first presenting itself before the project even began. I had arranged with a tutor to ask her Training & Development students if they would like to take part. On the proposal I felt that they would have valuable contributions. However, the tutor changed the dates on several occasions as they were behind on their curriculum work. Furthermore, my plan was to develop the arefact over Christmas and I could not proceed with this until Phase 1 was complete. The development of the artefact was dependent on the feedback from Phase 1. Therefore, I approached another tutor and carried out Phase 1 with a group of business students with no background in training and education. On reflection, I believe that this was the best outcome and actually yielded richer data and a more accurate representation of the adult learner.
Many questions presented themselves while I was completing the project that were not on the proposal. However, on reflection, I feel that while some may appear as limitations they were also indicators of future research and recommendations. For example, Phase 1 started with a blank canvas and Phase 2 began with evaluating the artefact developed from the input of Phase 1. While I was looking at the research with a conceptual lens from the transformation from the passive to the self-directed learner, some questions did arise. Did starting from the analysis stage have more of an impact on their level of self-directedness of the learners in Phase 1? There were significant differences between the findings from Phase 1 and Phase 2. From my own reflection I felt that Phase 2 were initially apprehensive to suggest any changes to the artefact. If they began with a blank canvas would the results have been more positive? That’s the exciting part of research, while you try and keep focused on the research question it can take you down other paths you hadn’t even considered. Existing research does discuss the lack of context and culture in online learning (Brookfield, 1984). However, one argument I made in the proposal was was that in terms of context that the online learning environment may be new to many adult learners thus having a negative impact on their self-directedness.
Another area that did present itself in the research was social constructivism. It was clear from Phase 2 that they craved the social aspect of the classroom and felt that online discussions and social media were not the same. A few learners in Phase 1 also referred to this. This is an area I would suggest for future research as I believe it may be a contributing factor as to why many adult learners are slow to participate in online learning.
Another limitation of the research was the fact that it did not examine the impact it had on their learning. While this may have been a limitation I do believe that it would be a recommendation for future research and was clear from the offset that this research was only gathering their perceptions.
When I had started the project instinctively I would have thought that technological limitations would be certain. In my proposal I had suggested Articulate Storyline but I am glad now that I didn’t as the learning curve would have been too great in the time that I had. Therefore, investing time in researching software was fundamental and I feel that iSpring Suite and teachable.com were good fits as they were easy to use and still looked professional. However, I would like in the future learn more about Articulate Storyline.
An important lesson I learned at the proposal stage was the importance of the wording of my research question. This was highlighted by my supervisor and we discussed how important it is to have a clear and concrete question. Furthermore, this makes the completion of the research more facile and focused. Below is the initial question and the revised one.
How does participatory planning in redesigning a face-to-face module to online with adult learners affect their perspectives of online and self-directed learning?
How does adult learner participation in redesigning a module from f2f to online impact their perceptions of online learning? In particular, does it alter their views of online learning and their self-directedness?
At each milestone I recognised the significance of scheduling and project management. This was reiterated when I had to change the intended group for Phase 1 and it certainly highlighted to me the importance of having a Plan B in place. Otherwise, it would have had a very negative impact on the project. I believe that this awareness so early on in the project ensured that my schedule was kept as tight as I possibly could. As result I was able to meet each milestone.
Another lesson I learned during the project was the importance of the wording of questions. In the post questionnaire learners were asked if being involved in the redesign changed their perceptions of online learning? It was a closed question. When interpreting the data I realised that an open question would have yielded richer data. Whilst I did probe this further in the focus group I did not get feedback from each learner but only those who were willing to share their opinions. I mentioned this in my journal as I wanted to recognise my oversights. Furthermore, piloting the questions is detrimental as a means to avoid this.
A previous lesson I learned and ensured that I did not fall into it was not taking note of the research papers as I went along. I didn’t want to be in a situation when I had finished my paper to realise that I had not kept note of the references so I approached it by doing them as I went along. However, there were one or two I did miss but was able to relocate. My intention was to use a tool such as Endnote but perhaps for future research.
In conclusion, a positive experience. Due to work restrictions and family life I didn’t get to immerse myself in literature as much as I would have liked. However, my plan is to read more on heutagogy over the Summer as this is a new term and perhaps some work on Patricia Cranton. On reflection, to answer my own research question I do believe that adult learners should be involved and it certainly has a positive impact. With regard to the level of self-directedness this may be determined by their own willingness to participate, the level of participation and the creation of a mutual and respective climate between learner and facilitator. Online learning may not be for all adult learners but I feel that creating awareness and increasing their confidence in using it may perhaps open up some more opportunities thus increasing lifelong learning.
Brookfield, S.(1984). Self-directed adult learning: A critical paradigm. Adult Education Quarterly, 35(2), 59-71.